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25 Practical Photography Projects for the New Year

So many photographers become stale in their pursuit of photography. Perhaps your hard drive overflows with tens of thousands of photos, yet somehow your photography seems to have become stagnant?

A new year is upon you and with this fresh beginning comes a chance to renew your love of photography. Perhaps there is no better way to do this than with practical photography projects.

Here are 25 practical photography projects to get you started!

Using Lightroom to organize photos - Practical Photography Projects

I use Lightroom to bring the chaos of my overflowing hard drives under control. Photos are sorted into folders waiting to be flagged, tagged, starred, and colored! Once this is done, projects become much easier to accomplish.

Projects based on photos you’ve already taken

Many projects can be accomplished based on photos you have already taken. Photography isn’t merely about snapping more and more photos. Therefore, it’s important to look back at our earlier work and draw it together in some sort of coherent project.

1. Study your old photos

You might be surprised by what you find when you sift through your old photos. It’s the perfect way to measure your improvement and growth as a photographer. Take as long as you wish to work on this project.

When you focus on your current difficulties or look ahead at all the skills you’re struggling to learn, it can seem like you’re never going to get there. But when you look back on where you’ve come from you can see how much you’ve truly grown.

Set goals for the future, but always look back to see how you’ve grown.

2. Create a collection

As you study your old work, you may notice patterns in all those photos. Perhaps you’ll see enough of a pattern to create a collection of photos. As you sort through your old photos, try to create collections based on subjects, themes, people or locations.

Practical Photography Projects

Sifting back through old pictures, I noticed I had quite a collection of photos of my kids playing in the window and curtains.

Studying your old work and creating collections are big projects in themselves. Once you’ve completed them, your next project should be taking time to appreciate your work by printing it.

4. Hang your collection

Raise your hand if you’ve already got stacks of photos stored away in albums and boxes? A perfect project for you is to find a place in your home or studio to display your printed collection. Maybe you know a small business owner or hotel manager who would appreciate displaying your collection for a while.

5. Invite other photographers to join you

All of these projects become ten times better when you work on them with other photographers.

Help each other narrow down your collections. Gain insight from others as to what should be printed and why.

You could even host a gallery evening together. Invite other photographers and friends to come and enjoy your photos along with some coffee or wine. Why not approach a local cafe or winery to host your event?

volunteer photography project - Practical Photography Projects

I volunteer as a photographer for Habitat for Humanity. I follow the house build from the first shovel going into the ground to the keys of the finished house being handed to the family. In the midst of running my photography business, I have this exciting photography project throughout the year.

Photos you’ve always dreamed of

So much for all those photos you’ve already taken, how about the photos you’ve always dreamed of taking? Let’s look at 20 more projects that will keep you busy exploring new things.

6. A childhood project you never completed

Maybe you had dreams and ideas for photos when you first got your camera but didn’t have the know-how to pull them off. Now that you’ve developed your creativity and skill, you should tackle one of those old ideas.

7. A half-finished project that needs completion

Look around for a half-finished project. There is nothing more discouraging than half-finished work reminding you how incapable you are. Even if you’ve lost your inspiration for that project; get it done! Sometimes tackling a project and finishing it off will inspire you to something bigger.

8. Learn a new skill

Perhaps your project won’t be a collection of photos or a new body of work but learning a new skill. DPS has plenty of books, courses and tips to help you learn something new. You can even document your learning journey through photos on social media or your website.

New skill photography project - Practical Photography Projects

Many of the volunteers with Habitat for Humanity do not know how to build houses. But by the end of the day, they’ve learned some new skill and feel happy with their accomplishments.

Projects that take all year

It’s worth considering how long you would like your project to be. You may even wish to tackle a number of smaller projects that feed into one larger project over the year. Here are several more projects that can last a week, month, or year!

9. Start a photography website

Whether you want a place to display your photos, write tutorials, or document your journey as a photographer, a website is a great place to get started. Find something with nice templates if you don’t want to fuss over the details, or use a highly customizable website if you want to stretch your creativity.

10. Something uncomfortable

When we talk about getting better as a photographer we often mean learning about technology or refining our technique. Those are important, and why not add growing as a person?

Try a type of photography that will take you out of your comfort zone. If you’re uncomfortable with people then try portrait or street photography. If you’re lazy, get out hiking and try landscape photography.

Introvert photography project - Practical Photography Projects

As a person who is very introverted, I try to take on photography projects that involve people. This helps me break out of my shell and be more social. My wife notices that I’m far less withdrawn than I was a couple of years ago. Photography isn’t just about expanding your portfolio, it’s also about growing as a person.

11. 365 project

A 365 project usually means taking a picture a day for a whole year. You can use it as a way to document your life, explore a theme, or follow a subject.

  • The first 365 days of your child’s life
  • 365 days in the life of your dog/cat
  • 365 unique plant types
  • 365 landscapes, documenting the seasons
  • 365 streets in a big city like New York

Don’t become anxious if you miss a day. The spirit of this project is to establish a collection over the course of a year. 300 photos, or even 100, is better than 0.

12. 52-week project

If the 365 project sounds too much for you, try a less intense version. Take 52 weekly photos over the course of a year.

  • 52 portraits of strangers
  • 52 food dishes
  • 52 photos of roses
  • 52 pasta dishes

13. A theme

Explore a theme on your own time and on your own terms.

It could be something warm and positive such as childhood or love.

It could be something confrontational such as violence or pollution.

This project is perfect for inquisitive explorer types.

Themed photography project - Practical Photography Projects

Expressing a theme in a photograph can be difficult. In this photo, I wanted to capture the idea of the difficult and messy work that volunteers do. I captured the muddy boots climbing up the scaffolding with people working in the background.

14. The seasons

Document the seasons throughout the year. You may consider traveling for this project. Hop on a plane 4 times a year to photograph the seasons in a climate different to yours. This project is perfect for people who travel a lot anyhow.

15. A person a day/week

Photograph a person (family, friend, stranger) daily or weekly. This might mean photographing one person over and over throughout the year or finding a new person each day or week. A perfect project for the social butterfly!

365 photography project - Practical Photography Projects

When I photograph a group of people over a long period of time, I try to mix things up every time I photograph them. Sometimes I’ll limit myself to certain angles, like this low angle photo.

Projects that take a month

16. 30-day project

Similar to the 365 or 52-week project, but this one only lasts a month.

17. A color

Choose a color to photograph for one month. Then choose another color each month and make this project last the whole year.

18. Document a charity

Find a charity that you can volunteer to photograph. You’ll expand your experience, build your portfolio and help them with their photography needs.

Volunteer work photography project - Practical Photography Projects

I began with a desire to photograph a house build. Then I discovered a charity who I could volunteer with. When you volunteer your time as a photographer, make sure it’s something you’re excited to get involved in and a worthy cause.

19. One camera, one lens

Choose one camera body and one lens to use for a month. Don’t touch anything else. Constraints like this can really help your creativity and photography to grow.

20. Camera phone

Perhaps that one camera/one lens is your phone! Treat your phone as a serious camera and you can take great photos with it. Through practice, you can learn to be just as creative with your phone as you are with your DSLR and 70-200mm lens.

21. Black and white for a month

Limit yourself to black and white photography in order to grow your vision and creativity. Set your digital camera to photograph in black and white in order to help train your eye.

Black and white photography project - Practical Photography Projects

In my mind, some moments are made for black and white. I know when I lift the camera to my eye that the photo will be black and white.

22. One subject

Find one subject to photograph for a month. Push yourself to take a different sort of photo than you did the day before. This will exercise your creativity and leave you craving the next month’s project.

23. Teach photography to a newbie

Your own understanding and ability grow when you teach what you know (or think you know) to somebody else. Your ideas and techniques become more deeply ingrained in yourself when you can learn to explain them simply to another person.

You’ll both grow as photographers. They may even push you to learn new things just so that you can explain it to them!

Habitat for humanity photography project - Practical Photography Projects

Projects that take a day

24. Day in the life of…

Photograph a person, place or thing for a whole day. Maybe your kids, the sun, your dog or a garden.

25. Self-portraits

Break out beyond the selfie and take some interesting portraits of yourself.

  • Street photographers can photograph their reflection in buildings
  • Portrait photographer can experience themselves as the subject
  • Landscape photographers can work themselves into the photo

Practical Photography Projects

Choose one

Pick one of these projects that suits where you are on your photography journey. You can easily choose a variety of shorter projects that you can weave together into a larger project over the course of the year.

Please share with me which photography project you plan to work on this year.

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Mat Coker
Mat Coker

is a family photographer from Ontario, Canada. He teaches photography to parents and families, showing them how to document their life and adventures. You can get his free photography ebook, and learn more about taking creative photos.

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